'My prescription medicine made me obese': How once-slim teenager's Lupus treatment caused her weight to DOUBLE in five years
Jena Graves, 19, from Napa, California, was given 'obesinogenic' drugsPrednisone also gave her diabetes and depleted the calcium in her bones, fracturing her back
Lupus is autoimmune condition suffered by singers Seal and Michael JacksonWidely prescribed antidepressants are also obseinogenic
21:10 GMT, 24 August 2012
Medicine can often have unpleasant side effects, from headaches and cramps to irritability and weight gain.
But 'weight gain' was something of an understatement in the case of one Californian teenager who developed obesity when she began taking prescription drugs for Lupus.
Napa-based Jena Graves, 19, was diagnosed with Lupus – a complex condition that attacks the immune system – when she was 15 years old, after complaining of tiring and bruising easily.
Napa-based Jena Graves, 19, developed obesity when she began taking prescription drugs for Lupus
Before then, Jena told the San Francisco Chronicle, she was a happy, healthy, active, 5ft 2in-tall teenager with a slim build and a love for softball.
Assessed by doctors, Jena was prescribed with a 25-drug cocktail, including prednisone, a corticosteroid that keeps the chronic autoimmune
disorder under control but can have horrific side effects.
Prednisone is also an obesinogenic drug (much like many antidepressants) which increases the appetite and makes the body retain fat more easily.
And in just five years Jena watched her weight more than double from a slender 120lbs to 272lbs.
No one told Jena and her family about the dangerous side effect of the drugs, so she didn't notice that she felt hungry all the time.
She continued to eat what she wanted, attempting to satisfy her constant hunger with junk food but never feeling full.
She said: 'Mostly
I would ask my mom for it, but when she was gone to work I
would just stand at the fridge and eat, because that's what it does to
One day Jena, 19, hopes to own a ranch of her own
Jena also felt exhausted, recalling: 'I
basically slept all the time. That's when I started
gaining weight and basically got depressed because I couldn't play
softball anymore and depressed because of my weight.'
Jena developed insecurities as she gained weight and found it difficult to socialise, eventually withdrawing from seventh grade at Napa's Redwood
Middle School and taking classes in hopsital instead. Vintage High School, another public school in
town, walking across the stage for graduation.
Her mother Mindy, a surgical scrub technician, worried about the
drugs' effect on her daughter but trusted the doctors to make her better: 'I figured, “These people know
what they're doing”.'
Soon Jena's situation worsened. She developed Lupus' most common side effect, Type 2 diabetes, possibly triggered by the high blood sugar in her body brought about by the drugs.
Both Seal, left with ex-wife Heidi Klum, and the late Michael Jackson have suffered from Lupus
She began taking metformin, a pill that helps regulate blood glucose levels that doesn't cause the same weight gain insulin can.
Then, in 2009, Jena and her mother
went to Stanford to get a second opinion and doctors immediately lowered
Jena's prednisone dosage and stopped her prescriptions to most of the
25 medicines, deeming them unnecessary.
They also found that prednisone had been sucking the calcium from her bones and had left her with a fractured back.
Morton, director of bariatric surgery at Stanford Hospital and Clinics, performed a gastric bypass surgery on Jena that helped
curb her weight gain – and Jena
is now healthy and happy once more, 40lbs lighter and and no longer
taking prednisone, having swapped to azathioprine to control her Lupus.
Dr Morton said: 'All these medications are
absolutely wonderful when they work in the right patients. But we've got to figure out if it's appropriate
or not to blanket America with prednisone and other obesity-generating
drugs that are creating problems.'